Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Hook

The stellar opening. It's what hooks a reader and keeps them reading. It's what gets an agent or editor to request a partial or even a full. Bad beginning? Your novel isn't going anywhere. 

But where do you begin? And how do you craft an opening that hooks your reader? I really struggled with this until I read Hooked by Les Edgerton. Entertaining to read and overflowing with examples, Hooked can help you avoid writing three chapters that you'll end up cutting later on. (If you need those chapters to explore your chosen characters and/or world, that's another matter.)

Things to seriously consider:

The inciting incident Your story is made up of incidents. But which one is the true inciting incident? (The inciting incident is the trigger that sends your MC through a life-changing series of events.) How can you tell which one is the right one?

The initial surface problem  The inciting incident exposes the initial surface problem. Surface problems will be the meat of your story, the action your character takes to deal with the trouble in his or her life. And through these events, we come to learn the story-worthy problem.

The story-worthy problem  How will your character change over the course of the novel? The story-worthy problem is almost always an internal struggle of some sort, and that struggle moves along through a series of surface problems that the character must face.

Setup and Backstory  How do they fit into your opening, and how can you segue from the current scene into a bit of essential background information?

And then he explains how to fit all those pieces into a solid, engaging beginning that will hook your reader and keep him or her reading to the end. I can't begin to explain it all here (and would probably be breaking a few laws if I did), so I'll leave it at that. If you're struggling with your beginnings, I highly recommend this book.

What are your favorite writing resources?


  1. That sounds like a great book, I might have to seek that out.
    I would like to recommend Stephen King On Writing. Really engaging, and totally changed my attitude to my writing.

  2. When I was starting out I couldn't live without Dwight V. Swain and I'd recommend him to everyone.

  3. Alison, now I'm going to have to read the book and find out how to fit those things together! Thanks for an interesting post.

  4. Great post. I haven't read this one yet, but will put it on my list. I'm getting ready to start Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, recommended by a friend of mine.

  5. I rely a lot of the books I've read, websites, advice of all of you guys *yay! and thank you!*.

    When I get to the finishing point, I'll be looking into editing/revision helps and crit partners. Whew!

    Great advice!

  6. I really like Donald Maass' How to Write the Breakout Novel workbook. Thanks for the hooking tips!

  7. Interesting post, and thanks for the recommendation!

  8. My initial chapter made it into the deleted file, but served to help me get my head around who the main character was. Great post!

  9. That actually sounds like a really useful book, especially if it casts light on the inciting incident thing. Still struggle with this...

  10. I recently bought this book. I can't wait to start it.

  11. Sounds great Alison. I'm reading a good one too: Second Sight by Cheryl B Klein. Her editing advice is awesome and covers all genres.

  12. My favorite writing resource is reading good books like HOOKED. Thank you for this post, Alison! I'm now going back to read through it again.

  13. I've now added this book to my wishlist of writing books!

  14. mood: I haven't checked it out, but I will!!

    Angeline: I love On Writing. Excellent writing resource. I just wish I could keep my edits to Stephen King's rather minimal ones!

    Carole: I'll look into it, thanks!

    Andrea: You're welcome.

    Lisa: I'll have to get that one, too.

    Becky: good luck!

    Vicki: I like that one, too, but I actually prefer HOOKED, for some reason. They contain a lot of similar types of information.

    K.C.: Thanks and you're welcome!

    Rebecca: And sometimes that's exactly what we need. Thanks!

    Adina: I helped me a TON.

    Kari: Yay!

    Catherine: I'll have to check that one out, too!

    Clara: You're welcome. Enjoy!

    Julie: Yay!